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Monday, September 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shea won’t run for re-election, leading to shuffle in area races

UPDATED: Fri., May 15, 2020

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea speaks with a crowd of supporters at the Spokane Arena before marching to the Spokane County Courthouse to protest against the statewide COVID-19 shutdown Friday, May 1. He did not file to run again for his seat representing Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington state Rep. Matt Shea speaks with a crowd of supporters at the Spokane Arena before marching to the Spokane County Courthouse to protest against the statewide COVID-19 shutdown Friday, May 1. He did not file to run again for his seat representing Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Embattled Spokane Valley Republican Matt Shea will not seek reelection to the legislative seat he has held for 12 years.

Shea did not file a petition of candidacy for his 4th District House seat Friday, the last day available for people seeking offices in the 2020 election.

He was rumored to be considering a run for Congress against fellow Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, but he did not file for that position either before the deadline passed.

His seatmate, fellow Republican Bob McCaslin, did file for reelection Friday. Former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase filed for the district’s other seat.

The 4th District is a strongly Republican district that has most of its population in Spokane Valley.

Chase, who had been planning a congressional campaign against McMorris Rodgers, said he had talked with Shea about 10 days ago. Chase said restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 outbreak were making it difficult for him to do in-person campaigning called doorbelling, and was also making it hard to get contributions.

Shea explained he was also thinking of running for Congress and “I thought Matt was a better candidate against Cathy,” Chase said. He told Shea he would run for the legislative seat if Shea ran for Congress.

When it became clear Friday that Shea was not seeking re-election, other Republicans scrambled to fill in the gap.

McCaslin filed for the Number 1 position, which was Shea’s because he is the senior representative. Leonard Christian, who lost to McCaslin in a previous race and had filed for the Number 1 position to run against Shea, switched to the Number 2 position. Mike Conrad, a Valley businessman who had filed for the Number 2 seat, switched to the Number 1 seat against McCaslin and Republican Dave Whitehead. Nathan Sybandy filed as a Republican in primary for the Number 2 seat.

In another late filing, former two-term County Commissioner John Roskelley, a Democrat, filed Friday for the Senate seat held by Republican Mike Padden, who had filed early in the week. Former City Councilman Bob Apple filed as a Republican to run against Rep. Timm Ormsby, a veteran Democrat in central Spokane’s 3rd District and chairman of the House Appropriation Committee.

A staunch conservative Christian and a fiery orator, Shea has ardent and vocal supporters and is a favorite speaker at gun rights rallies and demonstrations against abortion. He does not typically give interviews to The Spokesman-Review and a call to his cellphone was not returned.

He was removed from the House Republican Caucus late last year after an independent investigation raised questions about his connections to anti-government protests like the standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

The report – some 500 pages of emails, plans, online chats, law enforcement charts and social media posts – provided the background for an independent investigator’s allegation that Shea may have been involved in domestic terrorism. It also contained an array of other information, much of it previously reported, including a restraining order after a contentious divorce from his first wife and a police report of his involvement in an alleged road-rage incident.

In a Facebook post, Shea countered that the report was full of media reports he called “biased left-wing opinion pieces. The more the facts come out on this, the more it is clear this was a political hit job/label lynching paid for by us taxpayers.”

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said he was surprised by Shea’s decision not to run. The Valley Republican hadn’t informed him, but as one of the leaders who decided to remove Shea from the caucus “I don’t think he would have,” Wilcox added.

“I’ve talked to Matt no more than a couple of times this year,” Wilcox said.

After he was removed from the Republican Caucus, Shea lost his committee seats and the ability to use caucus staff. His desk was moved to the last row on the House floor.

Democrats tried to remove him from the House in the closing days of the 2020 session, but when they circulated a letter to gauge support, no Republican member signed on. Under the state Constitution, expulsion requires a two-thirds vote, and without any Republicans, the Democratic effort died.

This week, Shea was billed more than $4,700 for damage to the stairs and walkway around the domed Legislative Building for olive oil that was poured on those surfaces after a counter demonstration to a march in and around the building by the Satanic Church of Washington. Shea joined other Christians for the counter demonstration and is recorded on security cameras leaving the Legislative Building with a large bottle of olive oil.

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